Neighbors worry as PBOT breaks safety promise at NE 7th and Tillamook

Traffic on NE 7th at Tillamook. The pavement patch on the left is where the circle and large tree used to be. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“You have ripped this intersection wide open.”

– Rose Francis, lives nearby

Traffic barricades that created a carfree work zone at the intersection of Northeast 7th and Tillamook are gone — and so is the safer street many local residents have always wanted. But the project those barricades were erected for in the first place is incomplete.

On Wednesday, a contractor working for the Portland Bureau of Transportation removed dozens of plastic barriers and “road closed” signs. The move came after a traffic circle with a large tree planted in the middle of it was taken out of the intersection as part of a neighborhood greenway project. Over objections from many nearby residents, PBOT moved forward with this project and maintains that the circle and tree led to poor visibility and made the intersection more dangerous.

“That tree was the finger in the hole of the dam, and we’re seeing evidence of that right now,” said nearby resident Rose Francis at the intersection yesterday, as drivers drove over a patch of smooth pavement where the tree and traffic circle used to be. Francis has spent months organizing in the neighborhood against PBOT’s plans for the Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project. The removal of the circle was a chief concern of the grassroots Safe on 7th! advocacy group. When PBOT pushed forward with the project, the City promised that the work zone barricades would remain up until the traffic-calming elements were in place.

October 10th letter to neighbors from PBOT Director Chris Warner.

In an October 10th letter to residents, PBOT Director Chris Warner wrote, “We will not remove the traffic control barriers until those additional safety measures are in place.”

That promise has been broken.

“The message you get when driving here is that this is like 15th [a high volume neighborhood collector street nearby], that you should just book it right here like this is a through-way street,” Francis said. In an email to PBOT yesterday, Francis wrote, “You have ripped this intersection wide open.”

In response to a tweet this morning, Zachary Lauritzen wrote that he goes through this intersection six times a week carrying children in a cargo bike. “It was GLORIOUS w/o cars during construction,” he wrote. “When that came down this week, it was genuinely striking how much less safe it is/feels thru there.”

PBOT has completed some elements of the project. There are new curb ramps and larger pieces of sidewalk on the southern corners that guide bike riders through the off-set intersection. Two speed bumps approaching the intersection from the south have also been installed. But a key piece of the calming plan — a large concrete planter that’s supposed to be installed just north of where the tree used to be — is still not there. In a statement on Thursday PBOT said the planter will be installed next week.

On Thursday, a statement from PBOT read, “We apologize for taking the traffic control barriers down before the work was complete. We are working with the contractor to get that put back up as soon as possible.”

There’s also a lot of striping and pavement markings that are not yet on the ground. Those include five zebra-striped crossings, a left-turn box for cyclists, and green paint to mark the bike lane. PBOT says they are working with the contractor, “to determine whether they can complete the striping work at the intersection in the next few weeks.”

During my observation of the intersection yesterday, it was clear this is a very busy cycling corridor — and will become even more so due to its direct connection to the new carfree Blumenauer Bridge less than one mile away. And while drivers behaved relatively well while I was out there, Francis is worried that the changes — even once the project is done — will have disastrous consequences.

“We’re incredibly concerned about the safety of our street. Nothing about this design makes it safer,” she said. “We’re thinking of buying a radar gun to measure speeds.”


Below is PBOT’s full design for the project, which they say will be complete by spring 2023:

UPDATE: Someone has put a couch and a few barricades in the street to slow drivers down. The photos below were taken Sunday (11/13) around 2:00 pm:

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maxD
maxD
2 months ago

Considering how popular and common e-bikes have become, I assume they are the “design vehicle” PBOT uses when designing bike infrastructure. I also think the assumed design speed should be 15-20 mph. With those givens, please explain how routing a northbound bike lane through the middle of curb extension (pedestrian refuge) is supposed to INCREASE safety?

After some direct haranguing, PBOT agreed to add sharrows so hopefully bike will not use the brand new bike facility PBOT just built and hopefully people on bike wil use the traffic lane and not impeded on the limited pedestrian space available.

This is a terrible desgn. Don’t listen tothe words coming from PBOT, look at what they do- that reveals what they value: fast and direct movement of people of driving, people biking and walking get out of the way.

Michael
Michael
2 months ago

I suppose this is off topic, but I usually run an ad blocker, so I don’t see what kind of ads run on this site. I didn’t expect to see this ad though.

F9996CB1-C712-48A0-B2CA-B3B78CE88439.jpeg
Michael
Michael
2 months ago
Reply to  Michael

I’m also having a hell of a time connecting to the site lately with the security measures you’ve implemented.

ROH
ROH
2 months ago

It’s Evergreen Chevrolet, which by the name sounds climate friendly :/

squareman
squareman
2 months ago

I don’t mind it. It’s mostly wasted ad placement money spent by someone pushing oversized trucks. I’m definitely okay with that. 😀

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago
Reply to  Michael

Are you saying that you are not interested in spending $40,000 for a vehicle that gets 15mpg as you drive to get your groceries?

EP
EP
2 months ago

Can stop signs be added to 7th at the offset intersections w/ Tillamook? Obviously 7th should be closed to cars w/ diverters to the north and south of Tillamook, but until then…

Buster
Buster
2 months ago

While I fully agree with removing the traffic circle and tree (it really was a huge problem for visibility), I don’t love the bike lanes because the most common movement here is probably traveling along Tillamook and navigating this offset intersection. Seems like the bike lanes will make drivers expect bikes to stay in the bike lanes rather than making the left turns. Especially the southbound left turn, which doesn’t have a turn box provided.

Jrdpdx
Jrdpdx
2 months ago
Reply to  Buster

I agree w Buster. That tree and circle made it very hard to navigate and see. I ride thru here 3-4 days a week. Yesterday there was a barrier installed to the north. The awesome couch is still there and has had me smiling for several days

squareman
squareman
2 months ago

I went to Les Schwab on NE 7th & Broadway to get a punctured car tire fixed yesterday and specifically drove around this section of 7th to avoid that area. I saw that it was wide open as I turned south on 7th from westbound Tillamook. I just shook my head knowing that PBOT had screwed the pooch again.

The Pooch
The Pooch
2 months ago
Reply to  squareman

Why is it always me?

squareman
squareman
2 months ago
Reply to  The Pooch

Joke goes over my head. Sorry ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

EP
EP
2 months ago
Reply to  squareman

He’s the pooch, and in pain, because PBOT…

squareman
squareman
2 months ago
Reply to  squareman

Saw it today and the barricades were back up.

buckets
buckets
2 months ago

Those new speed bumps are super wimpy in size, the bike lanes as currently striped heading north lead directly into the back of a parked car, they didn’t fix any of the gnarly pavement in the south bound lane at the bottom of the hill transition when south commuters have all their speed and need to take the lane so it’s super sketchy still. What was the point of this if not just to remind us how nice it would be for 7th not to be a through street for a month or so and then take it away and it’s worse than the original design?

Watts
Watts
2 months ago

This is illustrative of why neighborhoods need to have a loud voice in what happens on their streets. They often know the “local driving culture” more than the distant professionals.

I’ll listen to any “leave it to the pros” folks who want to make an argument about why this project was a good idea.

dw
dw
2 months ago

I just… don’t understand the design they went with? I can see the argument about the tree causing visibility issues, but what makes this any safer? The little curb cut protector things are cool but I can think of a dozen intersections that 300% need them more than this one. Maybe they’re going to put a diverter in on 7th at some point?

qqq
qqq
2 months ago

PBOT has a habit of forgetting what it’s promised, and of responding to concerns when it opens incomplete projects to traffic with “Don’t worry, it’ll all work great with the finishing touches that are imminent”.

As one example, an 2021 article here described changes to SW Bertha/Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway that many commenters felt were unsafe. PBOT’s response was “the forthcoming addition of bicycle “detection and advanced activated warning lights” would assuage those concerns. The last time I went through there a couple weeks ago–a year later–there were still no lights. I hope PBOT comes through more quickly on NE 7th.

https://bikeportland.org/2021/09/27/first-look-city-restripes-bikeway-at-busy-sw-bertha-beaverton-hillsdale-highway-intersection-338709

blumdrew
blumdrew
2 months ago

Bit of a tangent, but why on earth does it take until Spring 2023 to complete a project like this? Like it’s just paint, a few curbs and speed bumps at it’s a 6+ month project – someone make it make sense. And with all the communication between contractors and PBOT, at what point do they just start having in-house construction crews? Baffling stuff.

Steve C
Steve C
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Just a guess but permanent asphalt usually isn’t available in the winter? At least that was my understanding. They patch with cold mix then redo it with hot mix when conditions allow.